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November marks American Diabetes Month, a national campaign focused on raising awareness about diabetes. Over 34 million people in the U.S. live with diabetes, a metabolic disorder that affects how the body makes or uses insulin. Diabetes can increase health risks including increasing the risk of developing hearing loss. A recent study shows that people with diabetes can be more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss. Participate in American Diabetes Month by having your hearing checked!
Connection Between Diabetes & Hearing Loss
Research shows a significant correlation between diabetes and hearing loss. This includes a major study, published in 2008, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. After analyzing data from hearing tests and a diabetes questionnaire for 11,405 people (ages 20-69), researchers found that among people with diabetes:
- 54% had high-frequency hearing loss compared to 32% among people without diabetes.
- 21% had mid-frequency hearing loss compared to 9% among people without diabetes.
- Adults with prediabetes were 30% more likely to develop hearing loss.
These findings highlight that diabetes can be a significant risk factor for hearing loss. Diabetes is known to affect blood vessels throughout the body. Researchers suggest that it can also damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear which is an integral component of how we hear and process sound. If you have diabetes or are prediabetic, it is crucial to prioritize your hearing health.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss impacts over 48 million people. Though it is one of the most common chronic health conditions people navigate today, it is underdiagnosed. Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so changes to hearing health can be overlooked for quite some time, contributing to the delay in treatment. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss can better help you intervene as early as possible. Early intervention can drastically improve the transition to transformed hearing health.
Common signs of hearing loss include the following:
- Tinnitus: often referred to as “ringing in the ears”, this is a ringing or buzzing-like noise heard in one or both ears.
- Needing to turn up volume settings on the television and/or other electronic devices.
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder or slower.
- Difficulty hearing in noisier settings, during conversations with more than one person, in social spaces, etc.
- Sounds and speech are slurred or muffled.
- Lip reading to identify individual words and better follow a conversation.
- Missing parts of a conversation or experiencing miscommunication.
- Feeling drained after conversations
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly depending on the degree of hearing loss present. Untreated hearing loss strains communication, an essential way we navigate daily life. This has far-reaching effects – impacting relationships, job performance, social engagement, and overall health and wellbeing. Being proactive about hearing health by practicing safety measures can significantly reduce your risk of hearing loss which is especially critical for people with diabetes!
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
You can start incorporating simple safety measures to protect your hearing health into your daily routine including:
- Have hearing checked regularly. Assessing your hearing is one of the most critical ways you can be proactive about your hearing health. Hearing tests are conducted by hearing healthcare experts, like audiologists, who specialize in diagnosing and treating all hearing-related concerns. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This reveals any impairment and the degree of hearing loss, then allowing your hearing healthcare provider to recommend treatment options that will effectively meet those needs.
- Practice healthy habits. If you have diabetes, it is incredibly important to remain as healthy as possible. This involves practicing regular habits like monitoring your glucose levels and ensuring they are at target levels, taking all necessary medication as prescribed, exercising regularly to help with blood flow and circulation, etc.
- Minimize exposure to loud noise. Another useful way to protect your hearing is by reducing your exposure to loud noise – one of the most common causes of hearing loss. One-time or consistent exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which causes hearing loss. You can reduce your exposure by avoiding places with noisy environments, maintaining low-volume settings on electronic devices, taking listening breaks throughout the day, and wearing hearing protection. Hearing protection can include headphones, earplugs, or earmuffs which offer the ears a protective barrier; reducing the amount of noise that is absorbed.
Commit to your hearing health this month by calling us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!